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Pathiana Archaeological Landscapes Project

Project description

Pathiana: a small but powerful region in the history of West Africa

The Pathiana region, a small area in southern Senegal, has played a big role in the history of the Senegambia over the last millennium. From the 13th to the 20th centuries, the territory of Pathiana survived as a political unit and centre of power through four different states, and played an important role in the Atlantic trade. However, its archaeology has not been studied until now. The EU-funded PALP project will combine archival documents, oral traditions and archaeology to study the history of this fascinating region and its wider implications.


This project focuses on the archaeology and history of the territory of Pathiana, a small (30x40km) region in southern Senegal which has played a key role in the history of the Senegambia over the last millennium. From the 12th to the early 20th C, and through four major socio-political disruptions, Pathiana survived as a political unit and centre of power, becoming a key player in the Atlantic trade in the process. Nevertheless, despite its key historical importance, Pathiana has never been archaeologically or historically studied, except for some limited excavations conducted as part of the applicant’s PhD. The proposed project aims to redress this situation by combing archival research with surface survey and recording of oral traditions amongst village elders. This will generate three interrelated datasets -historical European accounts and maps, local oral historical narratives, and archaeological survey data- which will be combined to achieve two main goals.

Firstly, this project will rectify a major lacuna in our understanding of the Senegambia by systematically documenting the archaeology of Pathiana and its associated traditions. This will correlate for the first time the region’s intangible narratives with tangible remains and generate the chronologies and baselines for future research to build on. Additionally, this interdisciplinary dataset will be used to explore how the political structures of a small but powerful polity changed and adapted through seven centuries and three major societal upheavals, and how such structures were reflected in, and articulated through, the landscape. This project thus will generate highly significant data and interpretations concerning both the history of the Senegambia and wider debates on societal organization, political complexity, and the relationship between power and spatiality, as well as further exploring the long-standing dialogue between oral traditions, written sources and archaeology.



Net EU contribution
€ 160 932,48
Calle serrano 117
28006 Madrid

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Comunidad de Madrid Comunidad de Madrid Madrid
Activity type
Research Organisations
Other funding
€ 0,00